Unfortunately, the Texas State Legislature continues to be the place where solid, fiscally-responsible ideas go to die:
Pop quiz: who do Texas’ lawmakers value more, liberal Hollywood movie-makers or retired teachers and taxpayers? We found out on the floor of the House during Thursday’s budget debate.
In a 108-37 vote, the Texas House rejected efforts to transfer money from Hollywood subsidy dollars — the “Film and Music Marketing” program — into the Texas Teachers Retirement System. You see, the teachers’ pension plan has an actuarial problem: it’s got a $24 billion hole that taxpayers are going to have to eventually fill.
Over the last year everyone involved in the legislative budget process has jumped on the end-the-gimmicks bandwagon — rhetorically, at least. But when the Texas House takes up the state budget on Thursday, they may end up endorsing a whole new way of cooking the books. Or, at a minimum, distorting the budget picture.
It appears budget writers are taking several billion dollars worth of revenue off the books — making the budget artificially lower than it is. Most notable are receipts associated with higher education and their affiliated hospitals. Those income dollars have for years been counted in the budget.
Moderates in the Texas House leadership, working with liberal Democrats, thought they were being really sneaky Thursday when a backdoor amendment to expand Medicaid and implement ObamaCare was added to the budget. Fortunately, lawmakers took action and repealed the language before it could go into the final bill.
It began when State Rep. John Zerwas, a moderate from Fort Bend County outside Houston, attached complicated language to a Democrat’s amendment. It was all very friendly. The members paying attention caught it and voted no. But all too many voted with it.
Expecting bold leadership from your state legislators this session? Don’t get your hopes up. If the first 80 days have been any indication, lawmakers are more interested in maintaining the status quo with bigger government than enacting commonsense conservative policy reforms.
Apparently even most Republicans can’t avoid the temptation of spending other people’s money when it becomes available.
We saw it last week when House voted to create a brand-new debt-creation mechanism in the name of “funding water,” instead of taking a serious look at reducing regulations on the water market that has made it so difficult for existing water supplies to move to where it’s in high demand.
It’s suddenly fashionable in Austin for lawmakers to wring their hands and fret over the budget surplus and overflowing rainy-day account. Rather than look for ways to give the money back to taxpayers, self-described conservatives are itching to spend the money on well-heeled special-interests.
Sure, sure, all the current talk sounds noble: Republicans say they are going to “invest” the surplus in “infrastructure.” How gracious of them! Too bad they didn’t collect those dollars under such pretenses.
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